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TenderJIT is an experimental JIT compiler for Ruby written in Ruby. Its design is mostly based off YJIT.

Getting Started with TenderJIT

TenderJIT isn't available as a gem (yet). To start using it, clone the repository and run the following commands:

$ bundle install
$ bundle exec rake test

If the tests pass, then you're ready to go!

TenderJIT currently requires Ruby 3.0.2 or the edge version of Ruby. It may work on 3.0.X, but I haven't tested older versions.

Running JIT code

Right now, TenderJIT doesn't automatically compile methods. You must manually tell TenderJIT to compile a method.

Let's look at an example:

require "tenderjit"

def fib n
  if n < 3
    fib(n - 1) + fib(n - 2)

jit =
jit.compile(method(:fib)) # Compile the `fib` method

# Run the `fib` method with the JIT enabled
fib 8

Eventually TenderJIT will compile code automatically, but today it doesn't.

TenderJIT only supports Ruby 3.0.2 and up!

How does TenderJIT work?

TenderJIT reads each YARV instruction in the target method, then converts that instruction to machine code.

Let's look at an example of this in action. Say we have a function like this:

def add a, b
  a + b

If we disassemble the method using RubyVM::InstructionSequence, we can see the instructions that YARV uses to implement the add method:

$ cat x.rb
def add a, b
  a + b

$ ruby --dump=insns x.rb
== disasm: #<ISeq:<main>@x.rb:1 (1,0)-(3,3)> (catch: FALSE)
0000 definemethod                           :add, add                 (   1)[Li]
0003 putobject                              :add
0005 leave

== disasm: #<ISeq:add@x.rb:1 (1,0)-(3,3)> (catch: FALSE)
local table (size: 2, argc: 2 [opts: 0, rest: -1, post: 0, block: -1, kw: -1@-1, kwrest: -1])
[ 2] a@0<Arg>   [ 1] b@1<Arg>
0000 getlocal_WC_0                          a@0                       (   2)[LiCa]
0002 getlocal_WC_0                          b@1
0004 opt_plus                               <calldata!mid:+, argc:1, ARGS_SIMPLE>[CcCr]
0006 leave                                                            (   3)[Re]

The add method calls 4 instructions, 3 of them are unique:

  • getlocal_WC_0
  • opt_plus
  • leave

The YARV virtual machine works by pushing and popping values on a stack. The first two calls to getlocal_WC_0 take one parameter, 0, and 1 respectively. This means "get the local at index 0 and push it on the stack", and "get the local at index 1 and push it on the stack".

After these two instructions have executed, the stack should have two values on it. The opt_plus instructions pops two values from the stack, adds them, then pushes the summed value on the stack. This leaves 1 value on the stack.

Finally the leave instruction pops one value from the stack and returns that value to the calling method.

TenderJIT works by examining each of these instructions, then converts them to machine code at runtime. If a machine code version of the method is available at run-time, then YARV will call the machine code version rather than the YARV byte code version.

Hacking on TenderJIT

You should only need Ruby 3.0.0 or up to get started hacking on TenderJIT. However, I highly recommend installing a debugger like lldb or gdb as well.

The main compiler object is the TenderJIT::ISEQCompiler class which can be found in lib/tenderjit/iseq_compiler.rb.

Each instruction sequence object (method, block, etc) gets its own instance of an ISEQCompiler object.

Each YARV instruction has a corresponding handle_* method in the ISEQCompiler class. The example above used getlocal_WC_0, opt_plus, and leave. Each of these instructions have corresponding handle_getlocal_WC_0, handle_opt_plus, and handle_leave methods in the ISEQCompiler class.

When a request is made to compile an instruction sequence (iseq), the compiler checks to see if there is already an ISEQCompiler object associated with the iseq. If not, it allocates one, then calls compile on the object.

The compiler will compile as many instructions in a row as it can, then will quit compilation. Depending on the instructions that were compiled, it may resume later on.

Not all instructions have corresponding handle_* methods. This just means they are not implemented yet! If you find an instruction you'd like to implement, please do it!

When no corresponding handler function is found, the compiler will generate an "exit" and the machine code will pass control back to YARV. YARV will resume where the compiler left off, so even partially compiled instruction sequences will work.

YARV has a few data structures that you need to be aware of when hacking on TenderJIT. First is the "control frame pointer" or CFP. The CFP represents a stack frame. Each time we call a method, an new stack frame is created.

The CFP points to the iseq it's executing. It also points to the Program Counter, or PC. The PC indicates which instruction is going to execute next. The other crucial thing the CFP points to is the Stack Pointer, or SP. The SP indicates where the top of the stack is, and it points at the "next empty slot" in the stack.

When a function is called, a new CFP is created. The CFP is initialized with the first instruction in the iseq set as the PC, and an empty slot in the SP. When getlocal_WC_0 executes, first it advances the PC to point at the next instruction. Then getlocal_WC_0 fetches the local value, writes it to the empty SP slot, then pushes the SP slot up by one.

TenderJIT gains speed by eliminating PC and SP advancement. This means that as TenderJIT machine code executes, the values on the CFP may not reflect reality! In order to hand control back to YARV, TenderJIT must write accurate values back to the CFP before returning control.

Lazy compilation

TenderJIT is a lazy compiler. It (very poorly) implements a version of Lazy Basic Block Versioning. TenderJIT will only compile one basic block at a time. This means that TenderJIT will stop compiling any time it finds an instruction that might jump somewhere else.

For example:

def add a, b
  puts "hi"

  if a > 0
    b - a
    a + b

TenderJIT will compile the method calls as well as the comparison, but when it sees there is a conditional, it will stop compiling. At that point, it inserts a "stub" which is just a way to resume compilation at that point. These "stubs" call back in to the compiler and ask it to resume compilation from that point.

Runtime compilation methods start with compile_* rather than handle_*.

As a practical example, lets look at how the compiler handles the following code:

def get_a_const

The instructions for this method are as follows:

== disasm: #<ISeq:get_a_const@x.rb:1 (1,0)-(3,3)> (catch: FALSE)
0000 opt_getinlinecache                     9, <is:0>                 (   2)[LiCa]
0003 putobject                              true
0005 getconstant                            :Foo
0007 opt_setinlinecache                     <is:0>
0009 leave                                                            (   3)[Re]

If we check the implementation of opt_getinlinecache in YARV, we see that it will check a cache. If the cache is valid it will jump to the destination instruction, in this case the instruction at position 9 (you can see that 9 is a parameter on the right of opt_getinlinecache). Since this function can jump, we consider it the end of a basic block. At compile time, TenderJIT doesn't know the machine address where it would have to jump. So it inserts a "stub" which calls the method compile_opt_getinlinecache, but at runtime rather than compile time.

The runtime function will examine the cache. If the cache is valid, it patches the calling jump instruction in the generated machine code to just jump to the destination.

The next time the machine code is run, it no longer calls in to the lazy compile method, but jumps directly where it needs to go.

Why TenderJIT?

I built this JIT for several reasons. The first, main reason, is that I'm helping to build a more production ready actually-fast-and-good JIT at work called YJIT. I was not confident in my skills to build a JIT whatsoever, so I wanted to try my hand at building one, but in pure Ruby.

The second reason is that I wanted to see if it was possible to write a JIT for Ruby in pure Ruby (apparently it is).

My ultimate goal is to be able to ship a gem, and people can just require the gem and their code is suddenly faster.

I picked the name "TenderJIT" because I thought it was silly. If this project can become a serious JIT contender then I'll probably consider renaming it to something that sounds more serious like "SeriousJIT" or "AdequateCodeGenerator".

How can I help?

If you'd like a low friction way to mess around with a JIT compiler, please help contribute!

You can contribute by adding missing instructions or adding tests, or whatever you want to do!

Lots of TenderJIT internals just look like x86-64 assembly, and I'd like to get away from that. So I've been working on a DSL to hide the assembly language away from developers. I need help developing that and converting the existing "assembly-like" code to use the runtime class.

You can find the DSL in lib/tenderjit/runtime.rb.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help out, please ping me on Twitter or open an issue!


JIT for Ruby that is written in Ruby




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